4 Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Local TV News Reporters

This post was initially published on BostInnovation on July 28, 2011. To read the original post there, click here. Today – thanks to social media, smartphones and other new digital communications platforms and tools – what the savviest of consumers are asking of their favorite brands is almost as much as they’d expect from

The Importance of LinkedIn Recommendations

Given my outgoing personality, my obsession with the latest news and the fact that I’ve always been an early adopter of new communications tools, it’s no surprise that I’ve been enamored with social media from the get-go. I can’t tell you how excited I was to launch my own blog in early 2004, where I’ve written nearly

10 Ways to Succeed as a Copywriter, Parts 1-10

If you’ve been reading this blog for the last few months, you know I’ve been writing a series of posts on copywriting. Similar to the approach I took with my series on social media, I’ve looked at copywriting from a 30,000-foot level, focusing on the principles you need to be mindful of if you want to

10 Ways to Succeed in Social Media, Parts 1-10

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you already know about the  “10 Ways to Succeed in Social Media” series of posts I started writing on January 13 of this year and recently concluded on April 5. But what you wouldn’t know is how much I’ve been looking forward to stringing these posts together into one

The Importance of Character in Social Media

By now, most people involved in marketing, advertising and PR have put aside any skepticism they may have had about social media and are using such online communications vehicles as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to reach out to and engage with others. They’re finally realizing that — as I’ve said before here on this

The Quality of Empathy in a Leader

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Empathy. It’s a quality possessed by many great leaders. It’s a quality to admire. Those who are empathetic are able to understand others. Apparently Theo Epstein has a great deal of empathy. That’s one thing I learned about him in the December 19, 2016 issue of Sports Illustrated. As a general manager, he’s already won two World Series with the Boston Red Sox and one with the Chicago Cubs. He’s a winner. He’s a leader. And he’s empathetic.

My Tweets about the #Bridge17 Conference

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I had such a great time at the 2017 Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference at the Gaylord National Hotel and Conference Center in National Harbor, Maryland. What follows is a Twitter Moment I created of some 30 or so of my tweets about this exciting event…

Five Ways to Crush It on Social Media

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Despite everything you read and no matter what anyone else tells you, there’s really no secret to success for marketers on social media.

Obviously, you can put the odds in your favor if you follow the industry’s best practices. But there are no shortcuts or tricks, no workarounds or hacks. Big advertising budget or not, if you’re not careful to adhere to some of the channels’ most fundamental principles, any wins you experience will be short-lived at best.
Transparency counts for a lot on social media as do authenticity and immediacy. Emerging technologies and newfangled tactics play considerable roles as well.

As if all that’s not enough, whether you’re talking about copy or design, still images or videos, memes or GIFs, you need to have an infinite supply of content in some shape or form queued up and ready to share with your followers, subscribers and connections.

Those principles I referred to above still reign first and foremost, though. There are too many of them to list here, but let’s talk about a few of the most important ones.

1. Have a solid strategy in place.
Far too many businesses and brands decide to launch a campaign, only to realize not too far into it that they either don’t have enough content to sustain momentum or they have no idea what to do with it. That’s just one of countless issues to address before you dip your toes in the social media waters. Branding. Lead generation. PR. SEO. What are your objectives? Which channels are you going to use? Who’s your audience? How can you achieve better results than your competition? You can easily get lost on social media if you haven’t mapped out your journey in advance.

2. Be persistent and patient.
If you’re not a brand like Red Bull or a celebrity like Kim Kardashian, you’re not going to be an overnight success on social media. Attention on these channels is earned, not given to you. Even if you put a massive budget behind your content and promote it like crazy, you still need a ubiquitous, bona fide presence on social media to be taken seriously. Social media levels the playing field between buyer and seller. The more you engage authentically with your audience on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like, the more likely they’ll be to respond affirmatively to what you have to offer.

3. Roll out the red carpet for your audience.
You never get a second chance to make a great first impression. Treat the members of your audience like VIPs. Roll out the red carpet and greet them with open arms. Thank them for following you. Ask how you can help them. Speak to their needs and interests, not yours. Give them props, credit, praise and kudos. Show them how much you appreciate the time they’re taking to watch, listen and learn from you. Give them far more attention than they’re giving to you and chances are, your welcome and warmth will be reciprocated.

4. Be available, responsive and engaging.
The good news is that social media has made it possible for you to engage with customers, consumers and constituents in real time, anytime. The bad news is that they can reach out to you at their own convenience. And expectations are that you will respond to them immediately. Banker’s hours are unheard-of on social media. Nights. Weekends. Lunchtime. It doesn’t matter what your schedule is in real life. On these online communication channels, you need to be there for your audience at a moment’s notice. If you snooze, you lose. There’s no rest for the weary on social media.

5. Show the human side of your brand.
One of the biggest mistakes marketers, advertisers and professionals in general make is to underestimate the importance of the social in social media. People do business with people who are willing to engage as themselves, not logos behind a litany of promotional messages and corporate gobbledygook. Be kind. Be generous. Be yourself. Cold, calculating and contrived content will get you nowhere on these channels. Candor and extemporaneousness will fly. Stress the positive attributes of your brand, personal or professional, but don’t pretend you’re something you’re not. Honesty and personality will get you everywhere on social media.

Note: This post, “Five Ways to Crush It on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ (with a different headline) on May 5, 2017, here.

10 Ways Major League Baseball Teams Win on Social Media

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There may still be a little chill in the air in some parts of the country, but spring has arrived and so has one of the biggest rites of this time of the year, the beginning of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season.

And while MLB may be showing its age a little as the oldest of the four professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, having been around since 1876 (the National League) and 1901 (the American League), respectively, it is still very popular.

Tickets are sold by the millions. Broadcast rights are valued in the billions. And social media is helping the sport to offset the fact that younger people today are less inclined to follow it than the generations before them.

Teams are using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other online communication channels to engage with their fans and promote their players, leveling the playing field like never before between brand and consumer.

Getting an autograph from your favorite ballplayer may have been the thing back in the day, but now it is getting him to like what you tweet or even better, having him agree to appear in a selfie with you.

Of course, not every team can make the playoffs, but there’s no reason every single one of them can’t win over their fans on social media during the course of the long, 162-game season.

Only a few days or so into the 2017 season, here are 10 different ways Major League Baseball teams were using social media around Opening Day earlier this week and what brands of all shapes and sizes can learn from these teams.

1. Branded Hashtags

Including their own branded hashtag, #LetsPlay, in this picture of Giancarlo Stanton on Instagram (as well as in the caption), the Miami Marlins and their fans have a communal way of identifying themselves.

First RBI of 2017? None other than @giancarlo818. ⚾️💪 #LetsPlay | #LetsGoFish

A post shared by Miami Marlins (@marlins) on

2. Special Moments

Big events should be covered from all angles for distribution to your audience both live and afterwards, as the Boston Red Sox did here in this video of the New England Patriots participating in their Opening Day ceremonies.

3. GIFs

A nine-inning baseball games take around three hours to play, but a home run like this one by Cesar Hernandez takes just a few seconds to happen. And thanks to this great GIF shared by the Philadelphia Phillies on Twitter, you can experience the excitement over and over again.

4. Slideshows

If these pictures are any indication, #AstrosOpeningDay was a heck of a good time for fans and players alike. A series of pictures like this is not only an innovative way to revisit the biggest moments of a special event, it’s a great opportunity to put your fans in the spotlight, the people who practically live and breathe your brand.

5. Special Offers

Social media makes it possible for marketers to act in the moment, which is just what the San Francisco Giants do here on Twitter, offering followers and fans a clever deal on tickets to commemorate Madison Bumgarner’s two home runs and 11 strikeouts in the first game of the season.

6. Joint Promotions

Like other MLB teams, the Chicago Cubs, winners of the 2016 World Series, are being promoted on these limited-edition Budweiser cans. Who can you join forces with to extend your own brand’s reach on social media?

It's officially baseball season. Grab your #Cubs can and hold it high. #ThisBudsForYou

A post shared by cubs (@cubs) on

7. Behind-the-Scenes Views

Give your audience on social media an up-close and personal look at how you do business. Show them the human side of your brand like the Toronto Blue Jays do in this collage of pre-game photos on Facebook.

8. Iconic Shots

A picture is worth a thousand words and some pictures are, well, priceless. Here’s a great picture of a great team with a simple, two-word caption. Capture your brand at his best and share that moment with your fans on social media.

Picture perfect #OpeningDayLA.

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

9. Video Highlights

In this case, the last play of the ball game is worth over 1,000 likes and more than 300 retweets for the New York Mets, not to mention a nice 6-0 shutout of the Atlanta Braves in the teams’ season opener.

10. 360-Video Montages

The Minnesota Twins knock it out of the park with this ridiculously cool, 360-degree video montage of their Opening Day win, fireworks included, of their Opening Day 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals.

Note: This post, “10 Ways Major League Baseball Teams Win On Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on April 10, 2017, here, and on LinkedIn on April 18, 2017, here.

How to Use Instagram Stories for Brand Storytelling

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2017-06-02_2304Now that social media is such a mainstay in business, those of us in the advertising, marketing and PR industries are realizing just how much time and talent it takes to succeed on these digital communication channels.

We’re seeing for ourselves that there are no shortcuts to success in this space, not to mention that even a massive budget won’t be able to offset the deficits of a product or service that’s not up to par.

For strategists and practitioners, agencies and clients, it’s certainly not an easy pill to swallow.

Social media has leveled the playing field on which companies and consumers engage, making it easier than ever for a brand’s weaknesses to be exposed.

It might be an understatement to say that audiences can be fickle on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like. Their expectations are high and their patience is short. “You’re as good as your word” may be an old adage, but it’s never rung more true than in this new era of communications.

If your strategy is to set it and forget it, you can forget about any chance you may have of succeeding on social media. Some automation is required. But if you’re not giving the human touch to your content and contacts, you may as well expend your efforts elsewhere.

Trust is earned, not given on social media. Followers will like you for the attention you give to their content as much as for what you have to share yourself.

Listen to others more than you promote yourself. Engage in real time. Respond promptly to those who reach out to you.

Courtesy will get you everywhere. Neglect and narcissism, not so much.

How do you stay sincere when all you really want to do is sell? Storytelling is your best bet.

Amuse, educate and enlighten by incorporating people and personalities into what you publish on social media. Produce visual, not just written, content. People want to see you and your team up close and in person, the more extemporaneous, the better. Involve others. Strike emotional chords. Introduce them to characters and conflict. Keep it real. Keep it up. Social media is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Stop orchestrating and overanalyzing how you’re portrayed online and start being yourself. Start using Instagram Stories for brand storytelling.

NewBalanceInstagram Stories makes it possible for your brand to be seen at the top of the regular feed in a seamlessly sequenced thread of photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Like Snapchat Stories, this feature allows you to add text, stickers, dates, locations…you can even tag others.

With Instagram Stories, you can, well, tell a story about you and your brand that informs and inspires. You can dazzle and delight your audience with your authenticity and credibility to the point where they will want to not just engage with you online, but want to do business with you in real life (IRL).

Lots of brands are using Instagram Stories to deepen their relationships with their followers, fans and friends, but some of those that I have personally been impressed by include New Balance, the Boston Red Sox, Stand Up to Cancer, Lewis Howes, Amber Mac, Mel Robbins, Tony Robbins and Gary Vaynerchuk. GaryVee

How do you use Instagram Stories? Here’s how:

• On your own Instagram account on your mobile phone, tap the plus (“+”) icon in the top left-hand corner of your screen (or swipe left)
• Take a picture or record a video (no more than 15 seconds in length)
• Add filters, text and drawings, etc. to your content
• Take advantage of the option to tag others
• Finalize your story (“Done”) and send to individual followers, too
• Don’t forget, you story can be deleted at any time, but it disappears after 24 hours
• Use analytics to see who has viewed your pictures and videos
• Consider downloading your story and sharing it elsewhere (including your regular Instagram feed)
• Remember, viewers can’t publicly like or comment this content, but they can send a private message about it
• Note that verified accounts can include links at the bottom of their stories
• Two new types of stories are currently being released, location-based and hashtag stories, which you can read more about here
• Finally, ads can even be run in between stories, which you can learn all about here

Seven B2B Marketers Rocking It On Social Media

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2017-05-16_1311The difference between B2C social media marketers and those on the B2B side of the fence is like the difference between hard rock and classical music.

You might think of the B2C peeps as the cool kids, loud and proud. Members of the B2B crowd wear suits and speak softly, often stiltedly.

While the former wouldn’t hesitate to experiment with Facebook Live or Periscope, the latter may be reluctant to share even pre-recorded video, never mind a live stream.

Yup. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that businesses that use social media to market to other businesses are usually quite buttoned up, restrained and cautious.

Those businesses that are marketing to consumers on these very same channels, not so much.

That doesn’t mean all B2B marketers are afraid to let their hair down on social media, though. For example:

1. Oracle

With nearly half a million followers (446K), this giant computer technology company is obviously doing something right on Twitter, this tweet being just one of countless good examples. While most of their updates tie back to their business in one way, shape or form, what I like about this one is not just its lightheartedness, but the fact that it’s all about Oracle’s followers, not the company itself.

2. Intel

Now this is how you dunk! And this is how you use Instagram, too. It’s a great video of a great basketball player, the Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon, getting the assist of a lifetime from a drone. What’s not to like?

3. Accenture

Think management and technology consulting is boring? Think again. At least it sure doesn’t look that way according to this multi-billion-dollar company’s Twitter feed. It’s informational, sure, but it’s also very engaging and entertaining. Who says you can’t mix business with pleasure?

4. Nielsen

Bold visual content can go a long way toward engaging your audience on social media, as this particular graphic illustrates. Promoting an eBook on segmentation, this post is a good example of what you find all over Nielsen’s Timeline – well-written updates accompanied by compelling, colorful graphics designed to drive traffic to this global performance management company’s website.

5. BrainJuicer

One glance at what they have to share in 140 characters or less on Twitter, and you can see why the GreenBook Industry Trends Survey has ranked them the #1 Most Innovative Company in Market Research five years in a row. BrainJuicer comes across as an authentic and transparent brand, people who take their work, not themselves, seriously.

6. Kronos

More and more B2B companies are realizing that Instagram is an excellent platform for showing off their spirited corporate culture, and Kronos is one of them. Not only is this a fantastic way to recruit potential new employees, it is also an easy way to introduce the people behind the scenes to your customers and prospects.

7. Sophos

As Mr. McGuire told Benjamin Braddock in the 1967 film, The Graduate, that there was a “great future in plastics,” I would tell everyone within earshot that video is where it’s at now in the world of social media. Good for Sophos’ Bill Brenner and Mark Loman for using Facebook Live from the conference floor recently. Two thumbs up!

Note: This post, “Seven B2B Marketers Rocking It On Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on March 2, 2017, here, and on the Overdrive Interactive blog on March 10, 2017, here.

Five Ways President Trump Takes Advantage of Social Media

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2017-04-29_1220I didn’t vote for him last November. There was no way this registered Democrat from the blue state of Massachusetts would check that box.

But I have to give him props for his tweets.

How a 70-year-old-man who just so happens to be the President of the United States uses Twitter more effectively than many businesses, brands and marketing professionals, I’ll never understand.

It’s true, though. Not that he isn’t sometimes impulsive and insulting on social media, but the President is using these channels – mainly Twitter, but also Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat – the way they’re supposed to be used.

Yup. If nothing else, President Trump has got it all going on when it comes to social media.

He’s conveying his honest feelings, like them or not, directly to the public and frequently dropping names.

He’s also sharing news, information and opinions in a transparent and authentic fashion, often on the spot.

Few filters, if any. Light editing. No red tape. That’s what I imagine it looks like behind the scenes of the President’s social stream.

Like a golfer on the tee, he’s swinging for it all. And like a gallery on the sidelines, all his followers and foes alike can do is watch in awe.

Who knew so many marketers would be schooled by the nation’s commander-in-chief?

Authenticity. Transparency. Immediacy. That’s what it’s all about on social media. Minus the braggadocio, bombast and bluster, that’s how we all should be doing it on these channels.

Keeping it real keeps your audience coming back for more of what you have to show and tell.

Opining in real-time about your area of expertise and who you are as a person, not only a professional, goes a long way toward building trust and respect among your constituency.

Let me be clear. A lot of what the President says on social media I would never espouse, particularly how he says it. He often crosses the line. But the energy and frequency with which his messages are being delivered makes them tailor-made for today’s new world order of communications.

I mean, his tweets are making headlines practically every day. You can’t buy that kind of exposure. It’s one huge, perfect publicity storm for him and his administration, if ever there was one.

Here are five ways President Trump is using social media to capture his audience’s undivided attention, especially mainstream media people, and drive his agenda forward.

1. Live-streaming video.

Anything you do on the job – within reason – is fodder for visual content on social media, especially if it’s a capstone moment deemed relevant to your branding and outreach. Live-stream a special event or take people behind the scenes for a peak at your operations. Video in any shape or form is the next best thing to being there.

2. Candid opinions.

How do you differentiate yourself among all the competition and clutter? Put yourself out there. You don’t have to be a contrarian or a critic to offer an alternative solution, though. Give them a piece of your mind, but don’t forget the golden rule. Don’t say anything on social media that you wouldn’t say in front of your own mother.

3. Shameless self-promotion.

As much as you want to show the human side of your brand on social media, you can’t forget why you’re there in the first place. Business. You’re not the President of the United States, but you do have the attention of your followers, fans and friends. Use this platform to your advantage, but don’t go overboard. Promote what you have to offer, but don’t cross the line.

4. Engaging conversations.

This is the social in social media, where the rubber meets the road when it comes to commanding attention among your constituents. The less you automate your updates and the more you interact with others, the more you will reap the benefits of your time spent here. Avoid controversy and always take the high road. But don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Tagging and naming others in your content shows your willingness to actually engage in the conversation.

5. Fearless experimentation.

So many businesses, brands and executives are quick to dismiss social media, claiming their audience doesn’t spend any time there. They say it’s just not their thing. Like the President working the crowd on Snapchat, though, I say they’re missing a great opportunity to establish an alternative outpost where their fan base could possibly grow.

Note: This post, “Five Ways the President Takes Advantage of Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on February 16, 2017, here, and on LinkedIn on April 30, 2017, here.

Five Great Storytellers on Social Media

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Five_Great_Storytellers_on_Social_MediaWhat would we do without social media?

Seriously, do you know how little trust consumers have these days in advertising, marketing and PR? Not to be the bearer of bad news, but people really don’t believe many of our taglines, headlines, subject lines and claims to this, that and the other thing anymore. Especially millennials.

But they do believe what we say on social media. Well, not everything we say there.

To be fair, the writing has been on the wall about traditional media for a long time now. As authors Rick Levine, Chris Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger said in their landmark book, The Cluetrain Manifesto, around the turn of this century…

“Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It’s going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in.”

We can’t say we weren’t warned.

As a careerlong marketer, thank heavens I embraced social media in its infancy, around the same time I began writing my blog, A New Marketing Commentator, in 2004. While I saw these newfangled online channels as different ways to send different messages, I was still targeting the same audiences as always with the very same objectives in mind. I saw social media marketing as a mashup of not just advertising, marketing and PR, but of broadcasting, journalism, publishing, newsmaking and storytelling.

Yes, storytelling. We’re now in the business of capturing people’s attention in one way, shape or form and holding it for as long as possible.

What can we do to establish common ground with the people whose time and business we covet? We can enthrall and enrapture them in words and pictures. We can spin true, enlightening tales that resonate with a mass audience. We can strike emotional chords that give rise to admiration, trust, respect and loyalty.

Gone are the days of monotonous, top-down, one-way, interruptive communications. Authoritative talking heads pitching products from the proverbial bully pulpit are history. Today’s marketplace is a remarkably level playing field on which both consumers and businesses enjoy mutually beneficial interactions.

Entertainment. Education. Information. Insight. That’s what people expect to receive from you. Not the hard sell. Not the promotional puff piece. Not the same old elevator speech.

Incorporate your unique sales proposition into an engaging story that pushes all the right buttons and triggers all the right actions during the course of the long customer journey.

Who really understands the magnitude of this change in how businesses and brands connect with constituents? Who has successfully embraced the transparency and authenticiy of this new wave of marketing?

Frankly, a surprisingly large percentage of marketers have fallen behind. They’re stuck in the past and mired in the weeds. They’re second-guessing their own strategies and tactics yet still reluctant to adapt. But there are still many good examples of great storytelling on social media. For instance:

1. Red Bull

Want a lift? Take a swig of a Red Bull. Want to see a master storyteller in action. Take a look at this brand’s online presence. From special events to celebrity endorsements, YouTube to Twitter, clever copy to ridiculously awesome visual content, these guys are as good at marketing as they are at making their popular energy drink.

2. Prudential

You might not have expected to see an insurance company on this list, but Prudential goes above and beyond across a variety of social media channels to enlighten and entertain, to inform and inspire, to do everything but sell. And that’s why they’re so enjoyable to follow.

3. Tough Mudder

I’ve run everything from marathons to 5Ks, and as challenging as they are, many of these races can be monotonous. From what I hear, though, a Tough Mudder is quite the opposite. It’s an adventure in tenacity, grit and determination. Watch their videos. Read their posts. Check out their pictures. But give yourself more than just a few minutes. Like a good book, it’s hard to look up from this iconic endurance event brand’s social media channels.

4. Samsung Mobile

Here's to shining brightly in #2017. #lights #GalaxyS7edge #Newyear #stars #shine

A photo posted by Samsung Mobile (@samsungmobile) on

What on earth could be included in a social media story on mobile computing devices? Everything on earth. Seriously, Samsung Mobile’s Instagram photos are from all over the world, many of which are taken with a Galaxy smartphone, too. Talk about a win-win marketing strategy. Not only does such a diverse array of visual content have the potential for massive reach and appeal, it shows off the capabilities of the product at the same time. Combined with a liberal use of timely, topical hashtags, this account’s got it all going on. It’s a travel journal. It’s a celebration of life. It’s a perfectly produced porfolio of the company’s products in action.

5. Guitar Center

Check out this musical instrument retailer’s YouTube channel and you’ll find a vast collection of videos focused mostly on people, not products. Talented musicians. Fantastic performances. Fascinating stories. All of which will leave you mesmerized, enthralled, dazzled and delighted. Such compelling content has you on the edge of your seat wondering what you’re going to see next. Guitar Center has certainly captured your attention, one of the first steps necessary in any brand’s relationship with a consumer.

Note: This post, “Five Great Storytellers on Social Media,” was originally published on ClickZ on January 16, 2017, here, on LinkedIn on February 26, 2017, here — and a version of it was published on the Overdrive Interactive blog on January 23, 2017, here.